September 21, 2018 / 3:05 PM / in a month

Luxembourg wary of EU anti-money laundering plan, Denmark in favour- source

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Luxembourg is among EU states that have urged caution in beefing up the bloc’s supervision of banks against money laundering, while Denmark is in favour, an EU official familiar with talks on the matter told Reuters on Friday.

Yves Mersch, member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank (ECB), presents the new 100- and 200-euro banknotes at the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

The positions were taken in a closed-door meeting of national envoys that debated a European Commission plan to tighten actions against financial crime, the official said.

It took place on Thursday, the day after the chief executive of Danske Bank (DANSKE.CO), Thomas Borgen, resigned over a money laundering scandal involving the lender’s Estonian branch.

There have been other high-profile money laundering cases at banks in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Malta, Latvia and Spain in recent months.

New 100 and 200 euro banknotes are displayed in Vienna, Austria, September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Currently, the fight against financial crime is conducted by national authorities which share little information and have sometimes showed little appetite to take action against domestic wrongdoers.

In Luxembourg, authorities decline to disclose the names of some banks sanctioned for money laundering, using loopholes in EU rules that allow secrecy, despite international guidelines recommending making them public.

The Netherlands, Sweden and Finland joined the Duchy in warning against acting “prematurely” over the Commission proposal, which would give more powers and resources to the European Banking Authority (EBA), the source said.

France, Spain and Denmark were among EU states that showed support.

The proposal, which needs EU states’ and lawmakers’ approval, was published last week. It needs to be approved before EU elections in May or risks being shelved.

States had earlier recognised “gaps” in the EU legal framework against money laundering.

But the source said most were surprised at last week’s Commission proposal, which came only days after they had agreed to postpone action to next year.

Germany, Estonia, Hungary and Italy showed caution about giving more powers to the EBA on money laundering, the official said, but stressed the importance of more cooperation and exchange of information among national authorities.

EU finance ministers will discuss the proposal at their next regular meeting on Oct. 2, according to a preliminary agenda. However, no decision is expected.

The Commission’s plan was seen by experts and lawmakers as sensible, although it postponed indefinitely bolder measures, such as the setting up of a single agency to counter money laundering, as recommended by the European Central Bank.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, editing by Robin Emmott and John Stonestreet

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